‘Recover capability, boost strength, connect to society’. Shiqian Wang, founder of Reboocon Bionics, is keen to emphasise what his start-up is all about. Wang dedicated six years to developing and testing wearable robotics. In 2016, he decided to found his own company, establishing one branch at Yes!Delft (Reboocon Bionics) and another in Shuzhou, China: Reboocon MedTech.
No, he did not have any personal affinity with people with a limitation due to paralysis or an amputation. ‘But during my doctoral research, I developed a robot suit for patients who had suffered spinal injury, and I was touched by their high spirits. Their will to walk, their joy when they actually managed to walk and were able to stand up straight and look someone in the eye again – that touched me’.
His goal: to make what seemed impossible, possible, by developing an exoskeleton that allows paralysed people to walk freely. ‘There are already three to five producers of exoskeletons around the world with this aim, but their versions still move in a relatively robot-like fashion. Reboocon wants to improve this by making its robots light, easy to control and – primarily – intelligent. You could compare it to cycling – a standard bike will get you where you need to be, but it is all a lot easier on an e-bike’. Wang recently sold some of this technology to TU Eindhoven, for use in their football robot.
‘We are still in the investment phase’
Interestingly, it is the start-up’s robot knee that is now resulting in an actual product. Constructed from titanium, carbon composite and aluminium, this knee is designed to be more energy efficient than those of competitors, more than a kilogramme lighter and a lot cheaper, while featuring intelligent algorithms that should make it easier to walk up and down stairs and on uneven ground.
Wang is yet to earn anything with his endeavours: ‘We are still in the investment phase’. The first prototype of his robot knee is currently undergoing testing, while the second prototype is planned to be completed by the end of January 2018. My staff and I live off the money provided by investors’. There were plenty of those from the outset, as the market for robotics for people with a physical limitation is enormous. Wang is determined to conquer this market within five years. ‘We already led the field in terms of prosthetics hardware, what we now need to do is take our software to the next level’.
- Founded: 2016
- Founder: Shiqian Wang
- Degree programme: PhD (2010-2014) in the Department of BioMechanical Engineering at TU Delft followed by postdoctoral research into exoskeletons
- Employees: 7 (and 2 interns) in Delft and 6 in Suzhou, China
- Turnover: None to date
- Target group: People with a physical limitation following a leg amputation above the knee or a spinal injury
- In five years’ time: wants to make Reboocon an international market leader in the field of wearable robotics.
- Reboocon Bionics